Romanian surgeon Thoma Ionescu has a prominent place in the history of Romanian medicine. He was a surgeon of world renown, a leader in the Romanian medical community, and a founding member of the Romanian Surgery Society. For these accomplishments, Ionescu was honored on a stamp issued by Romania in 1998 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Romanian Surgery Society on February 11,1898. Credited with introducing aseptic techniques into Romanian surgery, Ionescu is also known for his work on division of sympathetic nerves in angina pectoris and other conditions.
Thoma Ionescu was born on September 13, 1860, in Ploesti in southeastern Romania, about 35 miles north of the capital city of Bucharest. After graduating from high school (in Bucharest) in 1878, he attended medical school in Paris (France). He obtained a degree in medicine in 1879 and a law degree in 1882. He remained in France, where his surgical practice included undertaking operations that had never been performed previously. In 1891, he was named laureate of the Paris Academy of Medicine, a testimony to his brilliant career in France at a time when French medicine was dominated by many eminent personalities.
In 1895, Ionescu returned to Romania to become professor and director of the Surgery Clinic in Coltea Hospital and the Institute of Topographic Anatomy and Experimental Surgery in Bucharest, where he established the guidelines for the Romanian school of surgery. In 1908, he performed the first operation that incorporated cervical spinal anesthesia. The patient was a woman who had bilateral cancer of the jaw, and the operation was successful. In 1912, he performed the first cervical sympathectomy, an operation that until that time had not been performed successfully in France.
Ionescu published many scientific works (more than 450), most of which were presented at international congresses of medicine or at the Paris Academy of Medicine. His most influential works were Anatomie topographique du duodenum et hernies duodenales (1899), Le traitement chirurgical du cancer uteria (1902), Interventions chirurgicales dams les affections non cancereuses de l'estomac (1905), La rachianestesie générale (1919), and La sympathique cervico-thoracique (1923).
On March 26,1926, at the age of 65 years, Ionescu died in Rome, Italy, while attending the Seventh Congress of the International Surgery Society, of which he was a founding member. Ionescu's name is associated with medical schools in Bucharest, Timisoara (southwestern Romania near the Yugoslavian border, 75 miles northeast of Belgrade), Iasi (northeastern Romania), and Cluj. On the political front, Ionescu represented Romania at the World League of Nations.
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